Alex Murdaugh’s attorney Dick Harpootlian says people sending him hate mail ‘don’t understand justice system’

Alex Murdaugh’s defence attorney has claimed that his critics don’t understand the criminal justice system as he said that members of the public who camped outside to get into the infamous murder trial need to “get some help”.

Dick Harpootlian, who is also a Democratic state senator, spoke about the case on the South Carolina Senate floor on Tuesday – four days after his client was sentenced to life in prison for the brutal murders of his wife and adult son.

Mr Harpootlian claimed that he had received hate mail from people calling him a “piece of scum” or wishing him death by “rectal cancer”.

“Not all of them wished rectal cancer on me, but most were fairly critical,” he told his fellow state lawmakers.

Mr Harpootlian – who is also representing Murdaugh as he faces more than 100 charges over his string of other alleged crimes – said he believes the people wishing him ill simply don’t understand the criminal justice system.

“While they’re very familiar with the Second Amendment, they apparently haven’t read the Fourth, the Fifth, the Sixth and the Eighth Amendments that [guarantee our freedoms] of ourselves and our property,” he said.

“You don’t have to convince me you’re innocent for me to represent you. That’s not the issue. The issue is, can the state prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt?

“Once you decide that position, you are free to do what is in your client’s best interest.”

He said that he has represented “both sides” during his legal career where he has both prosecuted and defended death penalty cases.

“I’ve done both sides. I’m not a Red Sox fan or a Yankees fan. This is not what this is about,” he said.

Mr Harpootlian adding that “those out there... who don’t understand that [should] read a book”, before taking aim at the crowds of people who flocked to Walterboro and camped outside Colleton County Courthouse to try to get a seat in the public gallery at South Carolina’s so-called “trial to century”.

“Get some help,” he told them.

Defence attorney Dick Harpootlian holds Buster Murdaugh’s .300 Blackout rifle during Alex Murdaugh’s murder trial (Jeff Blake)
Defence attorney Dick Harpootlian holds Buster Murdaugh’s .300 Blackout rifle during Alex Murdaugh’s murder trial (Jeff Blake)

Mr Harpootlian’s courtroom style caused a stir throughout the six-week trial – as he shouted at witnesses and cracked a joke while pointing a gun at the prosecution table.

At one point, he was holding a .300 Blackout rifle belonging to Murdaugh’s surviving son Buster.

He waved the gun – a similar firearm to the one which was used to murder Maggie – at the state attorneys and remarked “it’s tempting”, prompting laughter in the courtroom.

At another point of the trial, Mr Harpootlian was mocked for his “spicy” cross-examination of a law enforcement official who testified about Murdaugh’s botched hitman plot.

The defence attorney resorted to shouting at SLED Senior Special Agent Ryan Kelly during an intensely combative exchange after jurors heard Murdaugh’s 911 call and police interview on 4 September 2021.

That day, Murdaugh claimed he was the victim of a drive-by shooting.

Days later, he confessed that he had orchestrated the plot for his alleged drug dealer Curtis “Cousin Eddie” Smith to shoot him in the head so that his surviving son Buster could receive a $12m life insurance windfall.

During cross-examination, Mr Harpootlian sought to argue that Murdaugh might not have been competent to speak to police that day after suffering a “superficial gunshot wound to the head”.

He reached fever pitch shouting at the officer asking whether or not he had asked for Murdaugh’s medical records – with the officer pointing out that doctors cannot simply hand this out when asked.

Mr Harpootlian and Murdaugh’s other lead attorney Jim Griffin have already vowed to file an appeal against his conviction.

During a press conference after his sentencing on Friday, Mr Harpootlian said they would be filing appeal documents within 10 days and insisted that they would appeal his conviction all the way up to the US Supreme Court.

It took jurors less than three hours to convict Murdaugh of the brutal murders of his wife Maggie and son Paul on the family’s Moselle property back on 7 June 2021.

Murdaugh, 54, was then sentenced to life in prison on Friday – and is currently behind bars in South Carolina.

Four jurors have now spoken out since the verdict, revealing that a damning cellphone video which placed Murdaugh at the scene of the murders was key to his conviction.

The video, taken by Paul on his cellphone at 8.44pm, filmed a dog inside the kennels on the grounds of the Moselle estate.

Off-camera, three voices are heard: Paul, Maggie and Alex Murdaugh.

During dramatic testimony, multiple witnesses identified Murdaugh’s voice in the footage.

Minutes later – at around 8.50pm – Maggie and Paul were brutally gunned down.

The bombshell video not only placed Murdaugh at the scene – but also exposed his lies about his alibi that night.

Since the 7 June 2021 murders, he had claimed that he had never gone to the dog kennels with his wife and son that night.

He claimed that he had stayed at the family home, napped on the couch and then driven to visit his mother at his parents’ home in Almeda.

Alex Murdaugh in court during his murder trial (Jeff Blake)
Alex Murdaugh in court during his murder trial (Jeff Blake)

When he drove home, he claimed he went down to the kennels, placing a dramatic 911 call claiming to have discovered the bodies of the two victims.

In a dramatic two days in the courtroom, Murdaugh finally confessed on the witness stand that he had spent the last 20 months lying about his alibi that night – but he continued to plead his innocence in Maggie and Paul’s murders.

Prosecutors said that Murdaugh killed his wife and son to distract from his string of financial crimes – at a time when his multi-million-dollar fraud scheme was on the brink of being exposed.

Murdaugh’s conviction marks the latest twist in the saga of the man who was once the powerful heir to a South Carolina legal dynasty.

His family had reigned over the local justice system for almost a century, with three generations of the family all serving as the solicitor in the 14th Judicial Circuit solicitor’s office.

The murders of Maggie and Paul shocked the Hampton County community but also brought to light a series of scandals surrounding Murdaugh including a multi-million dollar fraud scheme, a botched hitman plot and a series of other unexplained deaths.